|City Receives Highly-Favorable HUD Review
| December 29, 2009 -
Last year the City of Knoxville’s Community Development Department and its partner agencies built, renovated or repaired more than 250 houses, provided down payment assistance to 15 first time homebuyers – many with young families – and obtained 18 blighted properties for redevelopment.
It also provided technical support to non-profit organizations, funded façade improvements that helped eight businesses in struggling commercial districts improve their appearance and helped the Mayor’s Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness find permanent housing for nearly 300 homeless individuals.
And that’s just a partial list of Community Development’s accomplishments aimed at furthering its mission to revitalize the city’s low-and-moderate income neighborhoods according to a highly-favorable U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Review of the department’s activities during its Program Year 2008 (July 1, 2008 – June 30, 2009).
“We congratulate the City and its lead agency, the Community Development Department (CDD) on its accomplishments toward implementing programs and policies,” designed to achieve its goals, HUD’s Knoxville Field Director Mark Brezina wrote in a letter to Mayor Bill Haslam.
The letter outlined HUD’s findings in its annual review of the city’s Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluating Report, referred to as the CAPER.
The CAPER reviews the city’s use of Community Development Block Grant, HOME and Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) monies earmarked during the prior year for specific programs that support affordable housing initiatives, environmentally friendly housing, home improvement and repair programs and reducing homelessness.
“Our Community Development Department staff and non-profit partners have worked hard to reach the goals established in the annual Action Plan to serve low-income citizens and target resources in lower income neighborhoods,” Mayor Bill Haslam said.
Brezina’s comments in the six-page-long letter outlining HUD’s findings are uniformly favorable.
“Knoxville is commended on its achievements and successes in carrying out the Department’s programs during 2008. We also compliment the City for its continued success in focusing on assisting low-income families and neighborhoods with its (various programs),” he wrote.
The Community Development Department, directed by Madeline Rogero, received a total of $3.2 million in CDBG, HOME and ESG funding from HUD for the 2008-2009 fiscal year – and leveraged that funding with city funds and other federal funds to improve Knoxville’s center city neighborhoods by encouraging home ownership, housing renovations, blighted property acquisition and redevelopment, job training, and business development.
“The Community Development Department establishes priorities for our federal dollars with input from the community and then leverages funds from various sources to implement these successful programs,” Rogero said.
Through the city’s Homemakers Program and Empowerment Zone funding, for example, local non-profit developers acquired lots on which to construct eight new houses that will be purchased by moderate income families and individuals. Those included the first seven affordable, LEED Gold certified houses in the State of Tennessee.
Community Development is also responsible for managing programs that are funded by federal stimulus dollars, such as one that includes energy assessments and improvements on 35 houses in the Park City neighborhood and a program aimed at keeping at-risk households from slipping into homelessness.
Community Development also implements the Empowerment Zone-funded “My Front Yard” loan program that over 150 homeowners in the city’s central neighborhoods are using to make significant improvements to the exterior of their houses.
Rogero indicated that Community Development, while pleased with HUD’s findings, doesn’t intend to stand pat. She said the department will continue to try and expand its efforts towards its goal of strengthening the city’s core neighborhoods and commercial districts.
“As pleased as we are with this review and the progress we have made, we know that there is much work still to be done,” Rogero said.
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